Ultimul Sunet (Last Bell) 2018

The beginning of the ceremony, which was moderated by two 8th grade students
The raising of the flag and national anthem
The primary students wait for the ceremony to begin

As I mentioned in my previous post, last week was the last week of school in Moldova. I’ve written about the last day ceremony, called Last Bell, before. This year’s Last Bell was similar, but the graduating 9th graders were different.

The 9th “A” class entering with their homeroom teacher
The 9th “B” class entering with their homeroom teacher

The ceremony started with all of the students and teachers gathering in a horseshoe shape in the courtyard in front of our school. Once everyone was was in place, the 9th grade students entered the courtyard from the school, accompanied by their homeroom teachers. The same homeroom teacher stays with a group of students from 5th to 9th grade, and the relationship is supposed to be very close between the students and their homeroom teacher (the students also stay together usually from 1st grade until they graduate in 9th grade).

The 1st grade students reciting a poem
The entire 9th grade class

There were the typical speeches, by a police officer from our raion (district), a representative from our raion’s department of youth and sport, and our school director. Certificates were handed out to many students for participation in various activities and for academic achievement. The 1st grade students recited a long poem.

Me being presented with a diploma and a speech by the director
My partner teacher thanking me for my time here and giving me notes from the students
An 8th grade student reciting a poem she had written for and about me

Since this was my very last official day at school, I was also honored during the ceremony. I was given a certificate and my partner teacher Liuba gave me a packet of notes and drawings from my students. One of my 8th grade students, Maria, wrote and recited a touching poem in English thanking me for coming here. Unfortunately, nobody got a full video, but it was very sweet. I did my best not to cry, but my eyes did tear up a bit.

The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance
The 9th graders performing a dance

The 9th grade students generally prepare dance/song performances and recite poems as part of the ceremony. A small number of them did a nice dance, one of the girls sang a song that is often used to thank teachers, and they recited a poem. There were two 9th grade classes this year, and one of the classes prepared a very touching (all of the women and girls in the crowd definitely teared up, as did several of the boys in the class) tribute to their homeroom teacher, Valentina.

9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher
9th grade students doing a touching tribute for their homeroom teacher

They asked Doamna Valentina to stand in the middle of the courtyard, and then each student approached her, gave her a flower, hugged her, and gave her one end of a ribbon. This was accompanied with a short “the first candle is for…” thanking her for various things. This continued until she held one end of a ribbon attaching her to each of the students in her class. They then asked her to cut the ribbons, leaving part with her and the other part with each of the students. This was followed by a group hug and lots of tears.

The last bell being rung by a 1st grade student on the shoulders of a 9th grade student

The ceremony ended, as always, with the ringing of the final bell of the year. This is done by a 1st grade girl on the shoulder of a 9th grade boy. Then students went inside for their last homeroom class then went home. I spent some time in both of the 8th grade classrooms, then I also headed home to change for the teacher’s barbecue in the forest on the edge of our village.

The teachers celebrating the end of the school year with a barbecue in the woods

The teachers gathered together to eat, drink, and celebrate the end of another year. We went to the forest this year, and everything was very delicious and everyone was very relaxed. We had a lot of fun and stayed for over 6 hours! It’s a day I doubt I’ll ever forget.

Last Days as a Teacher in Moldova

The second graders: I actually only taught half of these kids, but we did a combined lesson on the last day.
Half of the second graders I taught this year.

This past week I wrapped up my time as an English teacher in this wonderful country of Moldova. For the past two years, I have taught English to 262 students in 2nd through 9th grade alongside my two amazing partner teachers, Ina and Liuba. I have spent at least 1,600 hours at school teaching and planning with my partners. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement: I have loved my school, my community, and my village.

One of the 3rd grade classes that I taught this year.
The other 3rd grade class that I taught this year.

My students weren’t always well-behaved, didn’t always do their homework, and sometimes wouldn’t stop chatting when they were supposed to be quiet, but every second was worth it, and I loved working with them.

The fourth grade class. I only worked with half of them this year, but worked with all of them last year.
One of my 5th grade classes. I worked with them both this year and last year.

When things got tough (and when you’re a Peace Corps volunteer, there are plenty of tough moments), they reminded me of why I am here and encouraged me, made me laugh, or just happened to say something I really needed to hear.

My other 5th grade class. I also worked with them both this year and last year.
My 7th graders. I worked with them both years.

When I think of leaving in just over a month, I tear up thinking of saying goodbye to this village, but especially to these kids. So many of them are motivated, talented, and hard-working, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see them grow up or how their lives unfold. I hope that each of their futures are full of happiness, success, and that they know how much I enjoyed working with them.

One of my 8th grade classes (about half the students escaped before I could get a picture- though it appears the whole class is girls, there are 3 boys as well). I worked with these students both years, and many of them came to English Club.
My other 8th grade class. I worked with them both years and several of them came to English Club as well.

On the last couple of days of lessons, we played some games, sang, and had fun. I took a picture with each of my classes, though apparently a lot of students just don’t show up the last week of school, so a lot of students are missing. I’ll miss them so much!

*Not pictured: the current 6th grade students that I taught last year as 5th graders (I didn’t teach them this year), the current 9th graders (I only taught them for 2 or 3 months last year when they were in 8th grade and didn’t teach them this year, but several of them came to my English Club), and both of the 9th grade classes I taught last year (they’ve since graduated from our school and moved on to high school, vocational school, or work). 

An American “Masa”

In Romanian, masă means a number of things. It can be used to say “table”, “meal” or even sometimes what we would consider a “party” (of the dinner party sense). It’s a word we hear every day as volunteers and it is a time of not just eating, but also of gathering with friends and family.

One of the highlights of my service in Moldova has been working with a group of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students at English Club for the past two years. Today was our last English Club meeting. To thank them for 2 wonderful years, my site mate Amir and I decided to surprise them with an “American masă”.

We made some of our favorite foods and also served iced tea and fruit punch. It was a lot of work (several days of baking and cooking), but in the end it was a huge success! Our menu consisted of deviled eggs, cornbread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese, tacos, and chocolate chip cookie bars. After everyone had eaten and tried all of the foods, we asked them which of the foods were their favorites.  The overwhelming majority voted the tacos as their number one favorite, closely followed by the chocolate chip cookie bars!

Since this was also our last meeting, I said a short speech thanking them for coming to English Club, for being interested in learning English, and for helping make my two years here in Moldova so wonderful. They, in turn, thanked me for coming here and teaching and working with them both during lessons and at English Club. I somehow managed to keep back the tears- but was also very touched by their words. I will miss these kids so much when I leave, but I’m very glad for the time we’ve spent learning, working, and spending time together!

Photo credit: Amir Feinberg

Cleaning Day

Each spring, a week or so before Easter, the students at my school are responsible for cleaning up outside around the school and around the village.  Each grade level is assigned one part of town (for example, the soccer field, around the school, the cemetery, the location of a monument, etc.) and spend the afternoon getting things ready for the holiday.

Our Cleaning Day was this past Monday.  Thankfully, it was a beautiful warm day and the work was completed in a couple of hours.  I was assigned to be photographer and walked all around the village with our adjunct director and my site mate.  It was the perfect afternoon to be outside (and I even got my first minor sunburn of the year!).  While some of the older students waited for the tractor to come to pick up the brush that had been cleared, some of the students played volleyball with one of our older teachers (formerly the French teacher, she’s retired but still teaches Religion at the school).

Peace Corps Week Celebrations

Each year on the anniversary of the foundation of Peace Corps, Peace Corps volunteers, communities, and returned Peace Corps volunteers celebrate the Peace Corps.  Peace Corps was founded on March 1, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.  Since then, over 220,000 volunteers have served in 140 countries.  Each year, Peace Corps Week celebrates the work, successes, and communities of volunteers.  This year’s theme was “Highlighting Home”.  In our village, my site mate and I decided to put together a week of activities and events to join in the celebrations and promote cross-cultural awareness.

We kicked off our activities with a mini “International Film Festival” on Tuesday.  Together with students in 5th through 9th grade, we watched the video submissions to the annual volunteer video contest (see them here).  Before watching each video, students found the country on a map and after each video, we discussed what they observed, learned, and made comparisons to what “home” looks like here in Moldova.  After we had watched all of them, our students made the observation that while the houses and people may look different from country to country, the feeling of “home” was the same in each place, as well as here in Moldova.

On Thursday we continued our celebration by video-chatting with a 5th grade class in the United States.  Our students, along with the students in the USA, prepared questions for each other, and we talked about things like holidays (it was Martisor here in Moldova on Thursday), school, and what kids like to do in the USA and in Moldova.  We even taught the American students a couple of words in Romanian!

We wrapped up our Peace Corps Week activities on Friday by welcoming some American guests to our school.  Three fellow volunteers came to our village and spoke to about 50 of our 5th to 9th grade students about what and where “home” is for them.  My site mate, Amir, and I also presented a bit about our “homes” and family in the United States.  Our students were very excited to meet some more Americans!

The week as a whole was a huge success!  Our students especially loved video-chatting with American students and meeting the other volunteers.  I was reminded of why I came here and the importance of the 2nd and 3rd goals of the Peace Corps: “to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served” and “to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans”.  This is why we are here, and we have so much to learn from one another.